Gary Polland

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Gary Michael Polland​

Chairman of the
Harris County Republican Party
(Houston, Texas)
In office
1996​ – 2002​​
Succeeded by Jared Woodfill

Born September 10, 1950
Chicago, Illinois, USA​
Spouse(s) Esther Slipakoff Polland ​

Hal Micah Polland​
Jonathan Scott Polland​
Rita Polland (1927-2020)

Residence Houston, Texas
Alma mater University of Texas at Austin
Occupation Lawyer
Religion Judaism

Gary Michael Polland (born September 10, 1950) is a Houston attorney who was from 1996 to 2002 the elected chairman of the Republican Party in Harris County, the largest county in population in the state of Texas.[1]

He is the publisher of the Texas Conservative Review, which is issued periodically via the Internet. From 2001 to 2006, the conservative Polland cohosted with the liberal commentator David A. Jones a weekly one-hour program, Texas Politics - The Real Deal, on Houston Media Source. In 2006, Jones and Polland created a new program for the Public Broadcasting Service outlet in Houston, The Connection, Red, White & Blue, a half-hour discussion and interview.​

Political activities

Under Polland's tenure as the Harris County Republican chairman, the GOP continued to win majorities in the county even if Republican candidates lost in the Houston corporate limits in contested races. Polland earned national recognition for his party's success from such publications as the national conservative weekly, Human Events, which called him the most effective party chairman in the nation. Other publications in which Polland has been cited are The American Spectator, The Houston Chronicle, and Inside Houston Magazine.

Polland has been politically close to such Republicans as Karl Rove, the former chief advisor to former U.S. President George W. Bush; U.S. Senator John Cornyn, former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, former Governor Rick Perry, former Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, and Governor Greg Abbott. He is a leading fundraiser for Republicans, having secured more than $3.5 million for candidates and causes between 1996 and 2006.​

In 2004, Polland led the Texas Legislative Mission to Israel. He serves on the national boards of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Jewish Policy Center, and the board of the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life political action committee. He is also the vice chairman of the United Jewish Communities. Though he is himself Jewish, Polland has worked closely with the conservative Christian community within Harris County on political matters. Polland resigned in protest from the Anti-Defamation League after the group criticized conservative Christian activism. ​ Polland has been honored by the Republican National Hispanic Assembly and the National Federation of Pachyderm Clubs. He was designated "Reaganite of the Year" by the Reagan Alumni Association. He is the author of A Time for Choosing 35 Years Later, an update of Reagan's classic speech from October 27, 1964. Esther Slipakoff Polland (born c. 1950) tells the story of her husband's infatuation with Reagan. At the age of fourteen, Polland heard the speech that Reagan delivered on behalf of the Republican presidential nominee, U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. She said that Polland often played Reagan tapes in the early 1970s, long before it was clear that Reagan might become president.

Polland is active in the interest group, Citizens Lowering Our Unfair Taxes (CLOUT), which seeks property tax relief in Texas. CLOUT finds that "appraisal creep" has hit Texas homeowners as hard as those in the Northeast, his native Illinois, and in Wisconsin.​

Polland ran unopposed to a second term as Harris County chairman in 2000, but he stepped down in 2002 to contest the District 17 seat in the state Senate in the party primary. The seat was vacated by veteran Republican J. E. "Buster" Brown of Lake Jackson. Polland lost badly to the physician Kyle Janek, who then prevailed in the November general election. Janek polled 8,495 votes (68 percent) to Polland's 3,967 ballots (32 percent). In a post-election letter to supporters, Polland wrote: "We ran a strong campaign based on our common conservative philosophy. We faced an incumbent (Janek was a state representative at the time), who was the darling of the Austin lobby. We were outspent at least two-to--one ..." Janek was reelected in 2004 and 2006.​ ​ ​ Polland won the support of many well-known Texas and national Republicans in his state Senate bid including former presidential contender Steve Forbes, the publisher from New Jersey, former Texas Secretary of State George Strake, Jr., former Vice President Dan Quayle, Virginia Republican activist Morton Blackwell, and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, the director of the Campaign for Working Families. n 2004, Polland contributed to African-American liberal Democrat Al Green in Green's successful primary challenge to U.S. Representative Chris Bell of Texas' 9th congressional district. A lawyer and justice of the peace, Green won the nomination—and thereafter the general election—in the heavily black district, 13,920 (65 percent) to Bell's 7,125 ballots (33 percent). In 2006, Bell ran unsuccessfully as the Democrat gubernatorial nominee against Rick Perry.​ In 2017, Green launched a drive to impeach U.S. President Donald Trump. ​ In January 2007, Polland warned the Texas GOP that it could face serious decline in the 2008 elections if the conservative grassroots were not activated and brought into the mainstream of the party.

Conflict with current chairman Paul Simpson

In 2014, Polland was a vigorous supporter of Jared Woodfill, his successor as the Harris County Republican chairman who failed in his bid for a fourth term as chairman in the Republican primary. Woodfill was unseated by the Houston engineer-turned-lawyer Paul Simpson, who received a $90,000 donation from Ed Emmett, the since defeated county judge of Harris County. Woodfill and Emmett became estranged in 2012. Emmett claims that Woodfill took personal credit for the establishment of "victory centers" when the sites were actually the work of Emmett and the state Republican party.[2] Simpson supporters claimed that Woodfill had grown lackluster in campaign fundraising and had accented "social issues" as chairman, including a lawsuit against the then Houston Mayor Annise Parker regarding benefits for same-sex couples employed by the city government.[3]​ ​ Polland remains critical of Simpson's performance as Harris County Republican chairman, whom he accuses of running a 1990s-style operation well into the 21st century. The GOP fared poorly in Harris County in the general elections held on November 8, 2016, and November 6, 2018. Not only did Hillary Rodham Clinton sweep Harris County, but the Republicans failed to win any county-wide offices in the state's most populous county. Polland assessed Simpson's performance:​ ​

What is Chairman Simpson's answer to our disaster in 2016? Three months later, essentially nothing but continue the same failed campaign plan (phone banks, regional headquarters, and, above all, as demonstrated in last week's executive committee meeting), no questions are to be entertained about the November 2016 debacle. If you study the GOP's plight, 2018 will become a critical election and a repeat of 2016 ... and Harris County could be lost for a decade with profound implications for red Texas.[4]

​ Unlike with the Simpson tenure, the Harris County GOP won all countywide offices under former chairman Polland. Simpson called the decline in GOP support in Harris County "fake news." According to Polland, Simpson "ignored every criticism and chose to chalk it up to 'two former disgruntled county chairs,' much like when a workplace predator distracts from the sexual harassment charges by calling the victim a 'disgruntled former employee.' It is unfortunate that Simpson is so adept and proactive when trying to save his own bacon, but did nothing to save the jobs of dozens of our Republican judges ..."[5]​ ​ In 2017, Polland, as a sharp critic of Joe Straus, then the Moderate Republican state House Speaker from San Antonio, called for the House to choose its Speaker through the party caucus, with each party putting forth a nominee for the post. Instead the Speaker is chosen from the whole membership of 150. Along with a contingent of his most loyal GOP representatives, Straus with solid Democratic backing continued to thwart conservative initiatives, such as the"bathroom bill," which twice passed the state Senate but was not acted upon by the House at Straus' direction.[6]


  1. Communications, Emmis (September 1996). The Alcalde. Emmis Communications, 63–. Retrieved on September 18, 2011. 
  2. Kiah Collier, UPDATED: Paul Bettencourt says he predicted Emmett's whopper donation, February 26, 2014. The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved on April 1, 2014.
  3. Kiah Collier, Challenger wins GOP chair race, March 4, 2014. The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved on April 1, 2014.
  4. Gary M. Polland (February 16, 2017). [ ​ Thoughts This Fortnight: Here They Come And We Are Still Planning a 90's Style Campaign in 2018]. Texas Conservative Review. Retrieved on February 26, 2017.
  5. Gary M. Polland (March 6, 2017). From One Disgruntled Republican to Another. Texas Conservative Review. Retrieved on March 8, 2017.
  6. Gary M. Polland (August 21, 2017). Time for the Texas House Speaker to Be Picked in the GOP Caucus. Texas Conservative Review, Vol. XVI (No. 12). Retrieved on August 22, 2017.